USL suspends player for directing slur at San Diego Loyal’s Collin Martin
The Phoenix Rising open the USL Championship playoffs Saturday night at home against Sacramento Republic.
They won’t have the league’s leading scorer for the entirety of the postseason.
On Tuesday the USL issued a six-game suspension to Phoenix’s Junior Flemmings, the Jamaican midfielder accused of directing a homophobic slur at openly gay San Diego Loyal midfielder Collin Martin late in the first half Wednesday at USD’s Torero Stadium. The Loyal, leading 3-1, walked off the field at the start of the second half and forfeited after the referee and Phoenix coach refused to remove the alleged offender.
Flemmings categorically denied the allegations in a social media post shortly after the game, saying:
“This accusation is false and my fellow teammates will support my claim. At no point did I say a homophobic slur towards Collin Martin … I am disappointed in San Diego’s actions this evening as I have been mauled and ridiculed online with no opportunity to defend myself.”
The USL launched an investigation and took nearly a week to reach a decision after interviewing 11 people. It is unclear whether Flemmings’ teammates supported his claim of innocence.
The six-game suspension is the same as Omar Ontiveros received a week earlier after the Los Angeles Galaxy II defender allegedly directed a racial slur at San Diego Loyal’s Elijah Martin, who is Black. Unlike the Flemmings incident, the USL said “none of the facts” surrounding Ontiveros was “disputed by any of the involved parties.”
Two days later, the Loyal asked to retroactively forfeit their point from the 1-1 tie against the Galaxy II. The league ultimately did not grant that request and kept the standings as is.
The Loyal did, however, forfeit a potential three points against Phoenix because they walked off the field before the game ended. Regardless, they would not have made the playoffs.
The top two teams from Group B qualified for the USL Championships’ 16-team postseason tournament. Even with the three points, the Loyal would have finished tied for second with the Galaxy II at 26 points but lost out on the tiebreaker (which in USL is most wins).
Instead, the Loyal officially finish fourth with 23 points behind Phoenix (35), Galaxy II (26) and Orange County SC (24). The Galaxy II will play Reno 1868 in Saturday night’s playoff opener, with the winner facing Phoenix or Sacramento.
Flemmings claimed the USL Championship regular-season scoring title with 14 goals in just 15 games, but his season — and possibly tenure — with Phoenix Rising is over. The Galaxy II promptly released Ontiveros; Phoenix put Flemmings on “administrative leave” through the end of his current contract, which expires Nov. 30.
“Phoenix Rising accepts and supports the results of this investigation,” General Manager Bobby Dulle said in a statement Tuesday. “These actions could not be more contrary to the core values of our organization, and we apologize to all who were affected.”
The statement added: “The team will provide Flemmings with the resources he needs to learn and grow from this, so that he may become a model for change in our sport.”
Flemmings, who has appeared 10 times for Jamaica’s national team, deleted his Twitter account following a torrent of critical replies to his denial.
Schantz, the 2019 USL coach of the year, remains on administrative leave as well. He told a Phoenix TV station he didn’t sub out Flemmings at halftime because doing so would have been an admission of guilt when Flemmings insisted he didn’t direct a Jamaican homophobic slur at Martin.
Schantz also was criticized for a heated exchange with Loyal coach Landon Donovan that could be heard on sideline TV microphones.
“I made comments captured by an open mic that were dismissive of the accusation,” Schantz said in a statement, “and have been interpreted that I feel that anti-gay comments are simply part of the game. While this was not my intent or personal belief, upon reflection, I fully understand my comments were wrong. I also understand the justifiable anger and I apologize for the pain I’ve caused.
“I have reached out personally to Collin to apologize for my reaction, and he has graciously accepted that apology. I’m working with LGBTQ community leaders to develop a personal growth plan that will include one-on-one counseling sessions with LGBTQ sports and community experts.”
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